In the first days of 1966, every supporter of Glasgow’s big two was really excited. After 16 matches, Celtic and Rangers were locked together at the top of the table. And as he fans headed towards Celtic Park for the New Year derby, they had conflicting aims for their respective clubs. Those favouring the Light Blues wanted another title to add to the ones already picked up in the decade of the 1960s, in 1961, 1963 and 1964. For fans of the Hoops, the ambitions were equally clear; they wanted their guys to win the title for the first time since 1954.
For the first time, I was involved as a player. I had joined Celtic in January 1965, made the first team in the autumn of 1965 and was now holding down the right-back slot and really looking forward to my first ‘Old Firm’ match. I was also under no illusions as to what the fans expected. Every one I met when I was out and about in Glasgow told me that they were expecting a good win and they would be really ‘gutted’ if that did not happen. Talk about pressure!
The Rangers side that day was a very experienced one – Richie, Johansen, Provan, Hynd, McKinnon, Greig, Wilson, Setterington, Forrest, McLean and Johnston. Our side was Simpson, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, Cushley, Clark, Johnstone, Gallagher, McBride, Chalmers and Hughes.
The match got off to a bad start for us, when Davie Wilson opened the scoring for Rangers in 2 minutes. However, from that point on, we took control, kept Rangers under the cosh and never let them back into the game. However, we had to wait until after the interval for our goals, which came from Steve Chalmers (49 and 62), Charlie Gallagher (68), Bobby Murdoch (79) and Chalmers again right on the final whistle to give us a resounding 5-1 win.
As you might imagine, our fans were deliriously happy; the Boss and his management team were quite pleased too, although also keen to point out that we had a game against 4th placed Dundee United coming up in five days time. From my own point of view, I was very pleased, both with the result and my own performance. “Old Firm contests” I thought, “ they’re a skoosh!”.